Monday, 26 August 2013

How to Host a Disney Dinner Party

Hi, My name is Roo and I’m a Disney addict.

All my life I have loved everything Disney. I was fortunate enough to visit Disneyland in Anaheim when I was 8 years old with my Mimi (my grandma) and ever since then the love affair has only intensified. It was only yesterday that my Aunty reminded that I would have been about 5 years old when she took me to see Sleeping Beauty and I danced in the aisle (and I was the only one).

Over the years I have been to Disneyland and Walt Disney World a few times and have always left even more enchanted. With all these visits the Disney food addiction has also intensified. Back in 2010 I spent 14 nights at Walt Disney World for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival (see previous posts) and as any Disney addict would know, I made my dining reservations 180 days before the trip and only managed to get all everything I wanted for the days I wanted. 

Over the next couple of months there are a few of us that will be travelling to Disney, two travelling to Disneyland to celebrate the big 4-0, so in anticipation of that birthday and just wanting to get into the spirit of Disney I decided to host a Disney themed dinner party for my friend (who is having the longest celebrations for this birthday lucky thing!)

After the night before and the morning of putting the final touches together I was ready for the party to begin. I get impatient when I just want to start dinner parties.  I greeted my friend at the door dressed like this!

Chef Roo

Do you like my Mickey apron and Ratatouille Chef Hat?  I secretly cook in this occasionally (okay I’m joking!) but I do love my apron. (*side story her taxi driver turned out to be my neighbour so when I ran out greeting her like this he was also standing there (because he was popping into his place for a break!) a little embarrassing!!!)

But I know all of you are eager to hear what food was on offer, right?

So here it is. The Enchanted Menu!
Enchanted Menu
The nibble platter was a big hit. Chips and cheese and bacon balls for the kids and the adults had
Nuts, Cheese & Crackers, Carrot, Celery and Capsicum sticks, Apple and Pecan Baked Brie, Spiced Pumpkin Dip with Crackers

baked brie in the cheeky cow cheese baker
The baked brie was baked in my new Cheeky Cow Cheese Baker which was a birthday present for the Good Food and Wine Show back in June. The topping was crunchy and toffee )(from the brown sugar) and gooey and oozy when a cracker scooped out a big wodge of melted cheese with it. This topping was fabulous and I’m eager to find more baked cheese topping recipes now! I made the spiced pumpkin dip with greek yoghurt and half a packet of Pumpkin Chilli Dip/Seasoning mix from The Spice Trading Company

Chef Roo at work

The kids sat at the kiddie table and us adults at the other kiddie table!  

For the main I served a simple Lady and the Tramp Spaghetti and Meatballs, Cheesy Texas Toast fingers and a Princess Salad with Pomegranate seeds (these were the rubies!). Simple but delicious. I wanted to keep this simple considering dessert and treats were going to be the central part of the party. Big meatballs made from beef and veal a rich tomato and bacon sauce on a bed of spaghetti. I put out all my Pukara Estate balsamic vinegars and oils to dress you own salad. I had Fig Balsamic Vinegar (which is my favourite).

After a brief break and some Disney movie time dessert was awaiting. During the night we watched Disney movies that we hadn’t seen before (or for years). Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid 2 and Fantasia 2000.
This was the special dish of the evening.

Jasmin's Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Ice cream Magic Carpets
Jasmin’s Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Ice Cream Magic Carpets (meringues) –I served this with a frozen raspberry and pistachio crumb, rose petals and pistachio Pashmak (Persian Fairy Floss). The ice cream was dense with frozen raspberry pieces and pistachios. The hint of rosewater was not overpowering like I thought it might have been after being a little heavy handed with the pouring of it and the pistachio Pashmak was silky soft and amazingly flavourful. I have had to hide the bag because I keep going back to it. The real kids had vanilla ice cream with Popping Candy.
We are now full after double helpings of dessert but we have to finish the evening off with Mickey Oreos and Tigger Tails. These are treats you can buy in the Disney parks.

Tigger Tails
Mickey Oreos

Aren’t they just so delightful and cute and they certainly brings out the inner child. They are super easy to make too.  The oreo cookies a packet (or 2) of normal oreos and multi packs of mini oreos. The mini oreo cookies are glued on with chocolate (use dark chocolate!) I used milk and it’s to light. Dip half the big oreo into red chocolate (or red candy melts) and stick on 2 white sugar beads for his pants buttons. Lay on a baking paper lined tray to set.

The Tigger Tails are five marshmallows threaded onto a stick and dipped in orange chocolate. Drizzled with dark chocolate (again I used milk chocolate but dark would work best) and set in the fridge.
We all had a wonderful night discovering our inner child again (and yes for some of us just be normal!)

As everyone left they were given a Princess’ or Toy Story lolly box to take home. Because every kids party needs a lolly bag!

Happy 40th Birthday Tammy.  I hope turning 40 is a magical filled birthday!
Some other random photos of the day.

Friday, 23 August 2013

My First Food Bloggers Dinner @ Alpha Restaurant


I have been invited to join fellow bloggers at Alpha , the relative new comer to the Sydney dining scene, next to the Hellenic Club on Castlereagh Street. Think marble dining tables, stone and light wood lined walls, fishing net inspired lighting and cane furniture and you get the picture. Peter Conistis has devised a menu that is based on traditional dishes with a contemporary twist. With a bar and open rotissere space along with the kitchen out the back you can get a glimpse of some of the slow cooked meats on offer.

fishing net inspired lighting

While persuing the menu we discuss what is best YiaYia's table (banquet style) or a la carte.  Amongst us are non-meat eaters, non seafood eaters and everything eaters, so a la carte is the best option for maximum coverage.  Food bloggers take time to choose their dishes, it's an artform that only other food bloggers can understand!

Pitta Bread
We choose pitta for 3 people and are given a mound of fluffy pitta, cut into wedges and served on a chopping board.  Hot and fresh out of the oven with hints of salt, garlic and herbs.  Perfect dippers! 
Organic Chickpea Hommous, Tahini, Garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 The hommous is creamy and smoothy with crunchy chickpeas scattered on top.  The black drizzle we can only assume is squid ink. As far as hommous go it's a good one.

2010 Kir Y ianni Akakies Sparkling Rose Amyndeon

 Keeping in theme for the evening Swah and I decide to sample the Greek sparkling Rose.  I'm delighted!  There is a hint of sweetness to the rose and it's refreshing.

Barrel Aged Fetta Tou Fourno, Chilli, Roast Garlic, Oregano
This fetta dish as a last minute choice because we specially asked for the halloumi (which is not on the main menu and only served on the YiaYia's table menu.  We were flatly refused in no uncertain terms that we could order this unless we had the banquet, so we opted for the fetta.  This dish was delicious.  The fetta was soft and gooey warm and the pool of olive oil laces with oregano, garlic and a hint of chilli from the roasted whole chillis is wonderful, sopped up the the pitta bread.  That chilli had a bit of a kick to it. 

Octopus Twice Cooked, Spinach, White Beans, Red Wine Vinaigrette
I was looking forward to this dish.  I love octopus and was hoping that this occy was as tender and juicy as promised.  I wasn't disappointed.  I had a long tenticle and it had a slight char on the outside, but it was tender and soft on the inside.  The white beans had absorbed the olive oil and falvours of the vinaigrette. 
Wild Greens, Chilli, Garlic, Olive Oil

Token greens are yummy.  Wild greens are in fact called Horta in Greece.  They grow in the fields of Greece in Autumn (usually after the rains).  The taste is a cross between spinach and bok choy with a grassier undertone.  Anything in chilli, garlic and olive oil is going to be tasty.*

Slow Roasted Lamb Spare Ribs, Thyme, Honey, Ouzo Glaze

Tender, smokey sweet lamb!  The meat literally fell off the bone as you picked it up. Good charring on it and melt in your mouth tender.  The carrot puree was good too. 

Spannakopitta, Spinach Pie, Leeks, Fetta, Dill

Not your traditional triangluar shaped patries this was a whole pie!  Flaky filo envelopes spinch and lots of salty fetta cheese.  There is a definite hint of dill.
Don't you just love the pie dish.  Loving the serving dishes and plates
Cabbage Salad, Kohlrabi, Graviera, Balsamic
I wasn't sure what to expect with this dish.  It sort of seems out of place on the menu.  However, it was refreshing and the parmesan was great with it. 
Spit Roasted Kurobuta Pork Kondosouvli, Greek Spices, Red Wine, Lemon, Oregano

 Loukoumades,Greek Doughnut Balls, Spiced Honey Syrup, Candied Walnut Ice Cream

I think we were all sold on the loukomades before we even ordered the rest of the meal.  These are a big portion of small mouthful of doughy puffs.  Unfortunately they are to doughy and spongy.  The candied walnut ice cream is fantastic.  Creamy and smooth with little crunchy balls of toffeed walnut pieces.  I'm not a walnut fan but I am an ice cream fanatic!

Galaktobouriko with fresh rasperribes and honey with a fig/mastic sauce.
The Galaktobouriko was the special dessert of the night.  Our waitress mentioned she couldn't pronounced it and tried to describe it.  her description really didn't match exactly what it turned out to be.  I realised what it was as soon as it came to the table - but I couldn't remember the name (or pronounce it either!) -until this morning when I doubled check the name!
It was a dense custard with filo pastry and the raspberries were fresh and tart with a slight sweetness to them.  The honey drizzled on top was good.  The fig sauce was light and very tart, we all agreed that their could be mastic in the sauce and it left a weird taste on the tongue.

I enjoyed the meal overall.  Most dishes I would order again except perhaps the dessert.  The generous portion sizes are a big plus, particularly as they are designed to share.  The most pleasurable part of the evening? Meeting fellow food bloggers. Absolute delight ladies, thank you for inviting me to join you.
*you may find it hard to find wild greens in greengrocers, however the summer version of wild greens in Greece are farmed and are the same as Chinese greens (with the red tinge) and can be found in Asian supermarkets.
Alpha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, 19 August 2013

Girls Night Out @ The Carrington Hotel - get your tapas on!

The Carrington Hotel (which is part of the Drink and Dine Group who also own pubs such as the The Forrester, The Norfolk and The Abercrombie) and more specifically Beba Y Cene, the Spanish inspired restaurant at the back of the bar, has long been on my bucket list of must dos.  This is the type of place that serves food that I love - plates to share!  Not sure why it's taken me so long to get here and as the new food blogger on the block I am running behind the crowd!  So when a girls night out takes me to Surry Hills for happy hour cocktails I also take the opportunity to suggest we head to The Carrington afterwards for dinner.

We arrive and its busy, busy, busy (it's a Saturday night after all).  Silly me has forgotten to make a reservation and we put our name down on the list to await a table.  That's okay, gives me a chance to check out the main bar area too. We head to the bar area for a bottle of wine (between the four of us!) and settle in until a table is ready.  The Bledisloe Cup is on so the bar is packed with sports fans with a mix of Aussies and Kiwis barracking for their teams and then there was us girls who weren't that interested in watching it!

extensive pintxos and tapas menu
On our way to our table Luke waves hello from the kitchen as we pass and I feel a bit special - how does he know me? -  Is my blog famous already?? (**totes joking**) and I later realise that he has actually replied to my instagram message and I assume he makes the connection as I pass. Nevertheless, I feel very welcomed here. Our waiter Matty settles us into our table and we start to discuss the menu.  Immediately I could tell that he was very passionate about the food and suggestions and recommendations were being thrown at us.  It's always a pleasure dining when your waiter is enthusiastic about everything!

The menu is large with a mix of platters, pintxos, tapas and mains.  We are all about sharing plates so we get to sample more, being the little piggies that we are.  However a couple of the girls are hesitant towards the 'unusual' types of protein and I assure them they will be fine and need to be a little more adventurous (just don't think about it) - and they agree as long as we don't talk about it in detail!  Fair play! We make our selection of four tapas and we think that is enough, however Matty talks us into also ordering a main to share too.

The plates come as they are ready and it's not long before the dishes start to arrive.   First plate served was a special complimentary dish for us (as the specials had sold out for the evening).  Thanks Luke!  A slider with smoked corned pork neck with a mustard cabbage slaw (?) forgive me if that isn't 100% correct but it would be close. It now appears I am a bad food blogger if I can't even remember what was in the first dish but in my defence we had already had a few alcoholic beverages leading up to this and my brain may have been having some trouble computing the ingredients!

smoked and corned pork neck sliders
Sliders are the best invention.  Perfectly sized and just right as a starter. These sliders are tasty, the meat was tender and the slaw slightly acidic enough to cut through the richness of the meat.

BBQ shrooms with chorizo bits
The mushrooms are 'meaty' and smoky and cooked perfectly and with slivers of melty, fatty chorizo this dish was a winner.  I can't stop myself from going back for more bites.

curry goat empanadas with saffron yoghurt
Piping hot these crispy parcels of curried goat are tender and juicy. The goat isn't as gamy as I had thought it might be. The deep yellow saffron yoghurt is creamy and with a hint of saffron.  These are little parcels of crispy heaven.  I love the saltiness on the crispy coating! I look over to one of my friends and she seems to be good with it.  It's a total head game when it comes to some types of food. 

chipotle meatballs with sofrito and manchego
I will admit that I don't often choose meatballs when I'm dining out because more often than not I am disappointed with them.  Usually they are dry or to dense or have more filler than meat, however these little balls were a little better than that. Perhaps on the drier side (for my preference) however the sofrito sauce was packed with flavour and who doesn't love gooey, melted cheese on top.

morcilla stuffed squid with tomato and chilli

This tapas dish was my pick out of the four tapas and I hoped the others would like it.  I really like blood sausage and have tasted different varieties throughout my travels.  Morcilla is a more subtle blood sausage and paired with the tomato and chilli sauce it is fantastic. It's not overpowering at all.  The squid tube is charred nicely and is tender but still with some bite to it.  The chilli adds a slight kick to it just to ramp it up a little more!  A glimpse over the my friends to see how they have coped with it...their not gagging and they are nodding their heads so that's a great thumbs up!

beef cheeks with coffee, jalapeno and carrot puree

The beef cheeks braised in coffee is rich and deeply flavoured, but its the carrot puree underneath that I keep going back for (even though I'm so full!).  Creamy and smooth and amazing it has a hint of jalapeno that tingles the tongue. I think we all just had a moment of silence followed by a groan and moan from each of us as we ate this.  Hands down the dish of the night.  I reckon I could have just a bowl of the carrot puree and be a contented woman - I don't suppose you guys would be willing to share the recipe would you? I'll keep it a secret I promise!

As full as we were by this point, we were coerced into dessert.  It seems Matty has a way of selling the dishes (and rightly so, we are a very happy bunch of girls).  You just gotta pull out that extra stomach for dessert (and in my case that's a big call) but we decided to share two of the dishes.  The fried milk was a must do and the churros for one of my friends who loves them.

fried milk with orange and pecans
Fried milk has been on the list to try foods and it's also on my list to cook myself.  While travelling in Spain many years ago I didn't get the opportunity it sample it, so I took it tonight!  The fried milk is custardy and not to sweet and well anything deep fried in my book is always a winner and then dusted in sugar and cinnamon it was just well, amazing. The fresh oranges and the raisin and orange syrup with a smattering of pecans through it I was in love with it. Definitely a must order dish.

churros and chocolate

Hot, sugary and dipped in chocolate what's not to like about these famous little sticks of dough.

As the kitchen and restaurant was slowing down for the night I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Luke and to thank him for such a great meal. Luck was on my side this evening too because Jamie Thomas (executive chef of Drink 'n' Dine) was in the house too!  Double score.  I have been following Jamie and Luke on instagram (and I find myself constantly drooling over their pictures of food) and it's nice to finally meet them in person. They have taken a few moments out of their busy schedule to chat with me and answer questions (and I have held back tonight!) I would talk all night if given the chance - and  I have promised to return for Tuesday night Pintxos and also breakfast one weekend soon. 

and Matty I promise I won't stalk you on facebook..................

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Oyster Festival @ The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room

 The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room located on the corner of George and Grosvenor Street in the CBD (which was once the Brooklyn Hotel and my old lunchtime stomping ground) is serving up $1 oysters between 6pm and 7pm daily for the month of August in celebration of this little bivalve mollusc which is renowned for its aphrodisiac qualities. 

I have been meaning to get there all month long and just not managed to yet so I took the opportunity to meet two friends there for a drink and a dozen oysters last night.  Sadly, my friends are returning to the UK after living in Sydney for the past 2 years and I am trying to persuade them to return again soon.  What better way than ply them with beer and eat a tray of Coffin Bay oysters to entice them?

I arrived before 6pm and find that it is already busy and no tables available.  So I order myself a glass of Sav Blanc and stand in the corner waiting, while taking in the surrounds. 

After a few minutes I eye a waiter and I manage to snag myself a table but am asked to be finished by 6.30.  Well that's not going to happen and the lovely waiter manages to find me another table!  Happy Hour has already begun and at $5 drinks it's popular, particularly with the knowledge of $1 oysters being served at 6pm.  A great deal for early doors.

Waiting for my friends to arrive and noticing the line up for oysters is every increasing before they even start service, I decide to line up myself for a dozen.

oysters on a half shelf
A big platter of dozen Coffin Bay oysters (which are from South Australia) and are an Angassi Oyster (as opposed to a Rock or Pacific) and sit atop a bed of ice, garnished with lemon wedges are they are screaming out for me to dig in.  They are plump and glistening in their deep shells, but unfortunately I find these oysters far to briny.  Overly briny and my tongue tingles with the salt and I shudder as I try to swallow the oyster. It's like taking a mouthful of seawater.

Wash it down with a glass of wine.

a dozen and sav blanc please

I started eating oysters as a kid, a rarity for the age group, but when I was eight years old I had a bad one and it put me off eating them for over 25 years. It's only in recent years that I have started to eat them again.  I am no oyster aficionado, nor do I eat oysters very often, but I do know that I like them creamy and not to salty. I prefer Sydney rock oysters over the 'noxious' Pacific oyster and I haven't tasted Coffin Bay oysters before. I can't help feeling a little disappointed (even if they are only $1).  Are Coffin Bay oysters supposed to be super briny?

The menu on the website hints at the Coffin Bay oyster not being for the lighthearted with the following description - "Coffin Bay "Cultured Natives", SA With its strong seafood and mineral punch; this oyster is not for the lighthearted."  mmmm, perhaps there should be a milder one on offer?

I decide to drain off the juice that has pooled in the shells and add a squirt of lemon juice.  Next couple are better but still very briny.

My friends arrive and once they are settled with a beer they decide to share a dozen. On of my friends has only ever eaten one oyster in her life so for her this is going to be new ground.  I'm not sure if she is going to like the brininess (and the texture!).  Her face says it all and she agrees that they are far to salty.  So lemon juice and a dash of hot pepper sauce does the trick and we manage to eat our platters of oysters. 
lemon and hot pepper sauce

Even though the oysters were overpowering, I loved the atmosphere of this bar and definitely would like to return for a graze off the menu.  Sean Connolly has designed a great menu and besides, who doesn't want to eat duck fat chips and fresh oysters? Make mine Rock thanks!  The Morrison is by far better than the Brooklyn Hotel any day!

The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room on Urbanspoon